Guwahati: Bimal Rabha has to cross the river daily to reach the neighbouring village on the other side, and wait in queue to get his mobile phone charged for Rs 10.
For many in Bimal’s village, who own a mobile handset, this is a routine they follow to stay connected.
Life without electricity has been harsh for the nearly 120 families living at Tengasot village, 3km from Dudhnoi in Assam’s Goalpara district. Villagers do not seem to be angry, but rather accustomed to years of survival without electricity.
Across the National Highway 62, hundreds of houses disappeared in the dark, save for a few dimly lit ones where children studied under kerosene lamps or candles.
“We have been living here since 1958 without any power supply. Our children have to cross the river to go to school. They study under the light of lamps. Our elected representative here stays just a kilometre away, but remains indifferent to our plight,” said Bimal.
In Jolokiabari village of Assam’s Golaghat district, no one owns a mobile phone or a television set – a fact that disturbs some of the villagers who fear that their children might never learn about television or computers, for they have never seen one.
Situated about 25km from Dergaon, there are 30 odd families at Jolokiabari near the Mahima tea garden who have been living for decades without electricity. Sometimes, they can’t even afford to buy kerosene for Rs 10 to light lamps. While the villagers are attuned to living in darkness, the elders are wary about the future of the children who have never been to school, but are whiling away time under candlelight.
“My generation grew up without electricity. But sadly, we couldn’t even help our children and grandchildren see essential things that run on power. We are growing old. I wonder if dreams will remain dreams. Will our children ever get to see TV?” asks Bhai Saikia, a daily wage labourer.
Badarul Islam Laskar, who lives at Ward No. 8 of Doboka Pathar village in Assam’s Hojai district, could not appear for his examination as there was no kerosene to study under earthen lamps the night before his Education paper of the Higher Secondary exam this year.
Around 90 families of Badarul’s village have been living without power supply since Independence. In addition to Hurricane lanterns and lamps, some are also using solar lamps. Despite appealing to concerned authorities, they have not got any help. Similar is the situation at Rangajan Dafalagaon village in Biswanath, Maidhyatetla village in Dhubri, Mazidbhita char (sandbar) and surrounding villages in Assam’s Barpeta district among many others.
With no transmission infrastructure, the real world for many in Assam appears dark, though it seems we are living in the digital age surrounded by services and technologies. The evidence from across remote villages in Assam, including the river islands, only prove that ‘every single village of India’ is not on the power grid yet.